Introduction: Since ancient times, competitive athletes have been familiar with the use of ergogenic aids and they will probably continue to use unfair and harmful substances in future, because their inclination to victory, along with the mirage of glory and money, will probably overcome health and legal risks.
Sources of data: We searched PubMed using the term doping over the period 1990 to the present day. We also included non-English journals.
Areas of agreement: By literature searching, it emerges that the phenomenon of doping is complex and multifaceted. It involves a number of causes and factors that do not originate solely in the athletic field, making universality its main feature. It is in fact observed in all ages and levels of competition, and it concerns all sports, even the most unpredictable.
Areas of controversy: The high number of athletes testing positive for antidoping controls attests that the current strategy might be analytically adequate to unmask most (but not all) doping practices, but it is probably ineffective to prevent athletes to dope and modifying this upsetting trend.
Growing points: As doping parallels the use of medications, food supplements, alcohol and social drugs, a reinforced preventive policy is advisable.
Emerging areas for developing research: The current anti-doping policy should be replaced with a more efficient and practical strategy to identify and monitor abnormal and harmful deviations of the biochemical and haematological profiles.